Landscape Lighting – Why and How
Are you able to enjoy your landscaping and outdoor living areas after dark? You can, with landscape lighting. Done professionally, low voltage lighting adds a totally new dimension to any landscape. The ability to enjoy your landscape after dark is the “icing on the cake” for outdoor living rooms. Simply lighting the pathways you walk at night makes your yard much more functional, safe and attractive. Good lighting also gives your home unbelievable curb appeal at night.
I’m not talking about eye-level post lights, floodlights, porch lights or any kind of “security light”. We call these types of lights “glare bombs” because they actually blind you at night. Neither do we mean those dinky plastic “solar lights” from China that they sell in big-box stores. They give an unattractive pallor to people and plants.
Your eyes naturally adjust to the available light. Big, bright “glare bombs” blind you by making your eyes close down so you can’t see anything outside the lit scene. If you use small, low-voltage LED fixtures, and carefully point them away from the viewer, your eyes will become more sensitive and you’ll actually see better at night.
Your home and landscaping are very personal “works of art” and deserve the same lighting used in galleries and museums: full-spectrum light that brings out the brilliant colors of flowers, foliage and hardscaping. Technically speaking, this means light “temperatures” between 2700 and 3000 Kelvin (Kelvin is the unit of measure for light temperature). For many years, Halogen bulbs were the gold standard for museum and jewelry store lighting, and for low voltage garden lighting. LED’s are now replacing Halogen bulbs, reducing maintenance and power consumption. Quality LED fixtures flatter plants, people, buildings, food; anything you want to see at night. Quality lighting systems offer well-made LED fixtures powered by a 12 volt transformer plugged into a wall socket. A complete system can consume as little as 50 watts.
Here’s the most important secret of effective, artistic outdoor lighting: select fixtures that hide the bulb itself, and place and adjust them so that you CAN’T SEE THE ACTUAL BULB. You should see REFLECTED LIGHT ONLY; lighted plants, trees, walls, pavement, signs, flags or whatever but NEVER THE BULB from the direction you are viewing from. Even underwater in your pond or waterfall, lights should be carefully aimed AWAY FROM THE VIEWER and toward beautiful objects and scenes.
A creative lighting installer can create “light paintings” by directing pools of light onto walls, down-lighting pavers, up-lighting trees and flags, and accenting anything you’d like to call attention to. Creative light placement allows you to focus attention on the prettiest scenes and vignettes, while masking less attractive areas.
At night, when all your interior lights are off, your garden lighting can be your “night light”. Looking out any window you can admire your gardens, which lend a soft glow sufficient for you to walk around the house at night without turning on any interior lights.
It actually doesn’t take many fixtures or much electricity to create beautiful effects, if you FIRST GET RID OF OTHER GLARING LIGHTS in the area. We absolutely love our low-voltage night lighting. We can walk between “pools” of light that show off our hardscape patios and walks. Up-lit trees act like reflectors, spreading light gently all around our gardens. We even have special accent lights on our grilling station so Marjorie can cook outdoors at night while enjoying the gardens. The overall effect is to make our landscape look like a picture postcard all season long, using far less electricity than even a single “security light” would burn.
Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in landscape “makeovers”. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are online at www.goodseedfarm.com. For more information call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.